BBC asks Gonsalves to provide answers to nine questions
March 1, 2013

BBC asks Gonsalves to provide answers to nine questions

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has been asked by the BBC, to provide answers to nine questions, in relation to a Panorama television programme being prepared about Harlequin Hotels and Resorts.{{more}}

Gonsalves told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday, that he had received an unsigned email dated February 26, from someone purporting to be Matthew Chapman, a producer for the Panorama show.

The Prime Minister said the email, which is marked “strictly private and confidential”, raises “nine variants of issues”.

He said he is prepared to answer the questions, but first needed clarification on two issues.

“Every single one of them I have a full and complete answer and I am prepared to answer all of them and they should allay concerns any reasonable person may have about any of those issues. But I want clarification first, or certainly an assurance, that this letter did come from them, as there is no signature.”

The second issue for which Gonsalves is seeking clarification, is what is meant by “strictly private and confidential”, as on the same day the letter was sent, Chapman told a local journalist that he was sending a private letter to the Prime minister, who could reveal the contents if he wants.

“The point is this, if you send me a strictly private and confidential letter, but you are alerting a blog before, then you, the BBC reporters and journalists, are trying to make yourselves, through vanity, the issue,” the prime minister said.

“They have become so enmeshed in this, and they are throwing words here and there, one has to wonder if they can be fair and balanced in this, as they are now protagonists,” he added.

Gonsalves says he is also concerned that the questions being posed to him are already in the hands of other people.

“I understand the questions are already in the hands of third parties, sent by them. What am I to make of that? Is this the continuation of the ambush? I now have evidence that the ambush of me on the plane was pre-meditated, as they changed their flight to the day when I was going to be on the plane,” he said.

Gonsalves had reported that on February 17, while he was en route to the CARICOM intersessional meeting in Haiti, BBC journalists Matthew Hill and Paul Kenyon, “accosted him” and barred him from disembarking a LIAT flight when it landed in Barbados.

The Prime Minister said he has been given until March 12 to respond to the questions, but in the meantime, he has asked Lord Chris Patten, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the BBC to confirm whether the letter, which purports to come from Matthew Chapman, is genuine.

SEARCHLIGHT contacted Chapman yesterday, who in an email said, “I can guarantee that the letter to the Prime Minister came from Panorama. I sent it myself and it’s genuine.”

In relation to confidentiality, Chapman said no one other than the Prime Minister had seen the letter sent by him.

“The letter was confidential, no one except the Prime Minister has seen it, although he is of course at liberty to divulge its contents if he wishes.”

The prime minister had told SEARCHLIGHT he wished to know whether he was permitted to release the questions asked and the answers that he gives them.